Large voter turnout in Dougherty County

Voters wait to cast ballots at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Albany Tuesday. Poll Manager Rosetta Tillman said 337 people had cast votes at the precinct by 11 a.m. (Staff Photo: Terry Lewis)

ALBANY — Dougherty County voters headed to the polls in what could be record numbers on Tuesday.

Poll workers at Covenant Presbyterian Church and Merry Acres Middle School reported nearly 700 voters had cast ballots at the two precincts by 11 a.m. That was eight hours before the polls were scheduled to close.

Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams are engaged in an increasingly acrimonious race to replace outgoing Gov. Nathan Deal. At stake is the direction Georgia will take over the next four years. And many say the outcome will be a de facto referendum on the presidency of Donald Trump.

Lines of nearly 50 people snaked around the Merry Acres gym, and a similar number waited patiently in line at Covenant Tuesday morning. At one point, the line at the church stretched into the building’s lobby.

“The turnout has been wonderful, and we have been really, really busy,” Merry Acres Assistant Poll Manager Jean Tillman said. “At 10:30, we had 350 people who had voted. I’ve been at this precinct for 10 years, and I have never seen a crowd this large. Usually, we’ll get that many in here in a single day. This is the largest number of voters I’ve ever seen; even in a presidential year.”

House 153 Republican hopeful Tracy Taylor stood at the intersection of Edgewater Drive and Dawson Road, flashing a thumbs up signs to motorists.

“This turnout is amazing,” Taylor, who is pitted against Democrat CaMia Hopson, said. “I’m feeling pretty good right now because I’m seeing conservatives turn out in large numbers. It’s really made me optimistic.”

A voter leaving Covenant agreed with Taylor.

“I am really pleased at the turnout, but I can’t talk right now because I’m late for an appointment with my dentist,” she said.

Inside the precinct, poll manager Rosetta Ponder was making her first appearance in her current role.

“It’s been really crazy in here this morning. It’s been non-stop since the doors opened at 7 a.m.,” Ponder said. “We have already had 337 people vote.”

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Writer with The Albany Herald.